In a recent episode of “Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby,” Sam Ratcliffe ’74, head of the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections in Hamon Arts Library, recounted his astonishment upon learning that a missing Texas masterpiece had been discovered in a dusty West Virginia attic.
A segment of the series, which aired on Fox Business News in February, focused on the recovery in 2010 of a long-lost painting by Texas artist Henry Arthur McArdle of the Battle of San Jacinto. The artist’s larger painting of the battle hangs in the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Ratcliffe, a noted Texas art scholar, knew the painting had been executed in 1901, but thought it had been destroyed in a fire, an assumption he had stated in a footnote to his 1992 book, Painting Texas History to 1900.
The program host interviewed Ratcliffe on July 8 in a room formerly used by the Texas Supreme Court in the Capitol. He provided context about McArdle’s significance. “He was the first artist to thoroughly research the sweep of the Texas revolution,” Ratcliffe explained. “He talked to many of the surviving veterans of San Jacinto. He did a lot of research on flags, on uniforms, and was just fanatical about getting the revolution commemorated properly.”
In 2014 Ratcliffe curated the first retrospective of McArdle’s work exhibited at Baylor University’s Martin Museum of Art.